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Emeritus professors Kogila Moodley (UBC) and Heribert Adam (SFU) are this year’s winners of the Thakore Visiting Scholar Award.

Defiant apartheid-era couple win Thakore award

October 7, 2010

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Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley, two academic commentators and political activists who risked imprisonment to know each other in apartheid-era South Africa, have received SFU’s 2010 Thakore Visiting Scholar Award.

Adam, a German-born SFU sociology professor emeritus and Moodley, an Indian-born UBC education professor emeritus, met and fell in love in 1960s South Africa where interracial relations were forbidden and universities were racially segregated.

Nevertheless, they bonded both professionally and personally and during the last 35 years gained international recognition for their research, books and lectures on peacemaking, human rights and non-violent change in divided societies.

Their award recognizes their efforts to deepen understanding of how India’s Mahatma Gandhi and later South Africa’s Nelson Mandela used non-violent resistance and mass civil disobedience to dislodge external and internal colonialism.

SFU’s Institute of Humanities administers the award on behalf of the Thakore Family Charitable Foundation and the India Club of Vancouver. It’s presented on Oct. 2, Gandhi’s birthday, to individuals who have devoted their lives to "creativity, commitment, and a deep concern for truth in public life, which includes … showing the connection between academic values and critical public spirit."

This year’s award also acknowledges Adam and Moodley’s exploration of the cultural and political roots of violence and peacemaking. In their book, Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking between Israel and Palestine, they argue that the rise of a new Mandela or Ghandhi in the Middle East wouldn’t necessarily bring peace to that troubled region.

Peaceful civil disobedience "relies on the opposing power being susceptible to moral appeals and sharing a similar moral universe," they observe.

"Where a shared value system is absent or the colonized become dehumanized … or are perceived as acting on behalf of a foreign power (KGB agents, Islamist zealots) posing an existential threat to the power-holder, moral persuasion tends to fall on deaf ears."

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